Flying Tigers

No, not LTG Claire Chennault’s legendary American Volunteer Group, nor its USAF successor, the 23rd Fighter Group.

I’m talking about the fargin’ Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), those tigerstripe-wearing, bike-riding, bomb-chucking terrorists dedicated to creating a separate Tamil homeland in the northern and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka.

Apparently they constructed an airstrip in Jaffna a few years back (in violation of the then-ceasefire), which was subsequently rendered inoperable by the Sri Lankan Air Force.  Yet this morning the LTTE managed to conduct an aerial bombing raid on Katunayake Air Base (co-located with Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo).

Tamil Tiger rebels launched their first ever air strike early this morning, attacking Sri Lanka’s main military airbase.

At least three people were killed and 16 were wounded in the attack.

The Sri Lankan military said the bombs hit a barracks and that none of its aircraft had been damaged. The government said the raid did not cause any damage to the adjacent civilian airport, which is 23 miles (37 km) north of the capital, Colombo.

—  Staff and wire services, “Tamil Tiger ‘air force’ bombs airbase“.  Daily Telegraph, 27 March 2007.

The plane was thought to be a Morovan Otrokovice Z 142, a single-engine piston aircraft commonly used for flight training.  It appears to be outfitted with some old-school 50lb “iron” bombs.


(image copyright 2007 Reuters)

The Liberation Tigers, of course, are positively full of piss and vinegar.  The reality of the deed is a little more mundane and ordinary.

A spokesman for the Tamil Tigers warned of further attacks from their new air wing, threatening to intensify the renewed conflict.

“A light aircraft flew over the base and dropped explosives. There have been two explosions. At the same time our air defences activated and there is a search operation going on,” said Grp Capt Ajantha de Silva, a [Sri Lankan] air force spokesman.

— Staff and wire services, “Tamil Tiger ‘air force’ bombs airbase“.  Daily Telegraph, 27 March 2007.

Right then.  An “air wing” comprised of a single aircraft.  Just for reference’s sake, fellas, an operational air wing in any other air force is comprised of at least one squadron, and each squadron has somewhere between eighteen and twenty aircraft.  What you’ve got is a more dangerous and comical form of Air Cadets or Civil Air Patrol.  Nonetheless, it has managed to disrupt airside operations for commercial carriers.

Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific airline announced the immediate suspension of its daily service to Bandaranaike international airport and declared a “careful assessment” was needed before the flight was resumed whilst at least seven other intercontinental flights were redirected to neighbouring India and Thailand.

Cathay said 119 of its passengers were stranded in Colombo after their flight was cancelled following the bombing of the Katunayaka air base. “It will take another 24-36 hours for us to get fully back together,” Sri Lankan Airlines’ chief executive Peter Hill said even as officials declared the airport open to air traffic later in the day.

— Rahul Behdi, “Flights alert after Tamil Tigers launch air raid“.  Daily Telegraph, 27 March 2007.

I seriously doubt that the LTTE have managed to give their little puddle-jumper any air-to-air capability.  An unarmed 747 could suck that little lawn mower into one of the outboard nacelles and still make its scheduled gate time on three engines.

The military authorities seem to have a sense of humour about it, at least.

“That is what the Air Force is still trying to find out, where they have come from,” said military spokesman Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe. “You can come along the beach side or over water without being detected.”

Samarasinghe laughed at the Tigers’ claim of a new Tamil Eelam Air Force, named after the independent state they are trying to carve out in the island’s north and east.

“There won’t be any Tamil Eelam. Small aircraft coming and dropping one or two bombs, it’s not an air force.”

— “S.Lanka rebel DIY “air force” a minnow but a threat“.  Reuters | India, 26 March 2007.


Here’s hoping the Sri Lankan Air Force gets a bead on them and puts the impromptu Jaffna Flying Club out of business soon.

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2 Responses
  1. Arumugam says:

    Dear sir,
    You seem to have biased views of the LTTE. They are fighting for a people who have been treated worse than animals. Do study the whole issue and then give your comments. Thankyou.

  2. Chris Taylor says:

    Let’s just say that I don’t consider any amount of poor treatment to be sufficient justification for targeting public transit, places of worship, and non-Tamil villages. Not to mention the use of child soldiers, (prohibited by Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions), summary execution of captured prisoners (also prohibited by the Geneva Conventions), performing ethnic cleansing by expelling Sinhalese residents from LTTE-controlled areas, and pioneering the use of suicide bombers and explosive vests.

    Accordingly my government, along with the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, European Union and 30-odd others has listed the LTTE as a terrorist organisation. They have certainly earned it.